January 31, 2011 - Leona the Meyer Lemon

Thomas was asking how his readers' citrus trees were doing, and I realized it has been quite a long time since I updated Leona the Meyer Lemon's progress. For those of you who are new to my blog, Leona is a Dwarf Improved Meyer Lemon tree. We named it Leona after my husband's mother, Leona Meyer. I purchased Leona as a 4" tall nursery plant last May. She is now 26" tall, and has had one of her branches pruned to force it to branch out like the other two did on their own. Leona has two clusters, plus one single blossom. This is her second time to bloom, but she has never set any fruit. I've been putting her outside most days, hoping a bee would find her, and I've given her blossoms a bit of tickling with a Q-tip. It's just a wait-and-see game now.

You can check out Leona's progress at See How She Grows

January 30, 2011 - Palm Springs

Yesterday morning we drove to Palm Springs, CA to meet our Hollywood friends, Bob and Carey, for breakfast at Billy Reed's. Bob is one of my dearest friends, and I hadn't seen him in nearly twenty years, so our meeting was long overdue. After breakfast, Bob and Mr. Granny sat on a park bench in downtown Palm Springs to visit, while Carey and I played tourists and walked up and down the street to see the sights. The time went all too quickly, as we had to get back home to get Annie and Otto inside before dusk came and the coyotes started wandering into town. Bob and Carey's dogs, Georgie and Walter, came with them. If we had known there was a shady spot to park, we could have taken Annie and Otto.

Carey and I had a lot to talk about, as he is an avid gardener. He has built several Victory gardens in the LA area, and once had a test garden for Jackson and Perkins. We had a long discussion about raised beds, organic gardening and the problems with making our own compost in the city. There will, of course, be emails back and forth to keep in touch about our gardens.

When we returned home, I transferred all my photos to the laptop, and only then did I discover I hadn't taken a picture of Bob! That means we'll have to arrange to meet again....soon!

Carey walks Georgie and Walter down the street in Palm springs.

The "dog friendly" town even has pit stops for puppies, where Walter gets a drink.

There was even a sight or two that reminded me of my gardens. This store reflects my AZ garden....

While this one reminds me of my Washington garden.

Yes, there are LOT of palms in Palm Springs. And a lot of BMWs. I've never seen so many anywhere else.

A photography studio displays pictures from Palm Springs' past.

A statue of Sonny Bono, the former mayor of Palm Springs.

The sidewalk reminds me of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with its tribute to the stars.

Leaving Palm Springs, we pass by a wind farm. Mr. Granny wouldn't stop long enough for me to get a good photo, but wind turbines run up the hillsides for as far as you can see.

What a fun day! Thank you, Bob and Carey, and I hope we can all get together again real soon.

January 26, 2011 - WOOT!

I did it again! I got myself another "Bag of Crap" from WOOT! For those of you who didn't read about my first experience with the famous BOC, you can read about it here. Anyway, I happened to be on line during a WOOT-off yesterday, so I stayed close to the computer in between loads of wash, and hanging clothes out on the line to dry. I didn't have much hope of actually keeping an internet connection long enough to place an order, even if I were lucky enough to catch the BOC offer, but as luck would have it, the bag suddenly popped up on my screen. I didn't panic this time. The last time I tried for it, the servers were so slow I kept trying to refresh the order screen, and it was sold out before I could get my order in. There's probably only about 2-3 minute period of time from when the offer pops up until it's sold out. Fortunately the order screen came up right away, I hit the buy button, and after what seemed like several minutes, but in reality was a few seconds, I got the confirmation that I had purchased one "Random Bag of Crap". Yes, the name fits the contents in most cases, but the exhilaration of actually getting that $3 prize is akin to landing the big trout, or bagging the big elk, or hitting the big jackpot on a penny slot machine. It's that fact that some people have tried for a BOC for years and have never received one. This is my second one in just over four months. My first one was, well, crap (see it here). Lots of calendars, a lanyard for an iPod, a USB numbers thingy for a laptop and a child's toy. Of course, there's always the chance one will receive something really worthwhile, like an iPad or even a big TV.

Anyway, it wasn't two minutes after I got the confirmation that the order went through successfully, that the electricity went off and the internet connection went down. It was still off when it came time to cook dinner, so I was thankful we have a gas range. By the time we finished eating, I had to get out the candles for enough light to see to wash the dishes.

Once the kitchen was cleaned up, I moved all the candles to the living room. By then, the battery had run down on the laptop so no solitaire or Scrabble, there was no TV, and I had already packed our only board games for the trip home. There were no batteries in the radio, so I used the radio on Mr. Granny's cell phone (the cell phones had no signal at all). By the time I had searched for available stations, and found three good ones, the low battery beep began. So much for listening to the radio! I grabbed my cell phone, which is used more for its mp3 player than for phone calls, and began to play a selection of my favorite music, which just about drove Mr. Granny to drink. I got tired of him glaring at me, so rather than get out my ear buds, I just turned the darned thing off. All that was left to do was actually talk to each other. That got pretty old by around 8 o'clock, so we blew out the candles and called it a night. I woke up around 11, and the electricity was finally back on, so I got up and watched the news channels for snippets of President Obama's State of the Union address, and a rerun of Jimmy Fallon with Jim Carey doing his entire routine while running on a treadmill....funnnny!!

Since this blog is supposed to be about kitchens and gardens, and recently I've not had much to blog about each of those subjects, how about a recipe today? This one was given to me several years ago, by a lady who was even more elderly than I. She's gone now, but I remember her fondly, especially when I bake this delicious cake. This must be made with an electric mixer, as it uses canned apricot halves that must be mixed into the batter well. When the cake is baked, there is no sign that apricots were ever used in the batter. It's just a very moist, delicious spice cake. Enjoy.

Bev’s Apricot Spice Cake

1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 whole eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups canned apricots (1 15.25 ounce can or 1 pint home-canned), undrained
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine sugar, oil and eggs in large mixing bowl. Beat well. Add all remaining ingredients, except walnuts, and beat until apricots are completely broken up and combined with the other ingredients. Batter will be quite thin. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9"x13" baking pan. Bake at 350°F. for 30-35 minutes.

Frost with:

Penuche Icing

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine butter and brown sugar in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 2 minutes. Stir in milk and return to boil, stirring.

Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a small mixing bowl. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until smooth and creamy. Spread warm frosting over cake (cake can also be warm).

January 24, 2011 - And Then The Hard Work Began

*Part 2 of Arizona mobile renovation

When we purchased the property, in the spring of 2004, it had sat deserted for nearly three years. A neighbor had managed to keep some water on the oleander hedge and the palm tree, but those were the only living things other than a few desert trees and some creosote bushes.

While I worked getting the inside livable, Mr. Granny built a railing around the front porch. It got terribly hot by June, up to 118F outside, so evenings on the front porch were very enjoyable. By mid-June, we gave up and went back home for the summer.

Returning on October 1 that fall, we finished up some of the interior work, then moved an old trailer and shed off of the property. It was during the shed moving that Mr. Granny asked if I was trying to kill him with all the hard work. I said "Of course not, just move it another two feet". That's when he had his heart attack. He got a $26,000 helicopter ride to Phoenix, and I got to do most of the labor from that day forward.

The previous owners had used a thin interior plywood as skirting, not even installing it under the drip line, and then back filled around it with sandy soil from the Bouse Wash. Of course, through the years the wood had dry rotted to the point it wasn't safe to walk on the soil around the trailer. I had visions of the ground giving away and me sliding right down underneath. We tried to find someone to dig a trench all around the back and ends of the 12'x65' structure, but no amount of $$ could woo anyone into doing the job. So I did it myself. It really wasn't that hard, but I had to keep the sand wet at all times so it wouldn't just slide back into the excavation. I dug a trench about 2-1/2' deep and 3-4' wide, just enough room to remove the old skirting and install the new.

Mr. Granny helped me completely wrap each sheet of exterior OSB with Foam Tex. Then the two of us pushed the panels up under the drip line, and screwed them into some framing.

Once the north end was finished, I backfilled and terraced the soil and rebuilt the rock walls, mixing dry concrete mix with the sand, then dampening each layer as I stacked the rock.

I cut a hole in the bottom of a large terra cotta pot, and slipped it over the tongue of the trailer. It was an improvement over the red plastic bucket the previous owners had used! A few pots and plants, and a drip system to keep them watered, and the north side was complete.

The first section along the back was dug.

Foam Tex wrapped OSB was installed, and the trench was filled and leveled.

I began laying the concrete pavers for a small patio and walkway.

Those blocks are heavy! I went from a size 12 down to a size 8 by the time the walkways and rock walls were finished! Unfortunately, I gained it all back.

The retaining wall was rebuilt, using dry concrete mix in the sand.

The final section to be dug and skirted.

And the final walkway being built. These walkways and the patio are such an improvement over the old, bare soil.

All finished!

There will have to be a part three about this renovation. A lot more work was done on outbuildings, carport and landscaping (and UN-landscaping). Besides, I have to have something to blog about before gardening time comes around!

January 23, 2011 - Do It Yourself, There's No Other Choice

Sue said "You guys need to stop crawling around all over the place and just hire someone...."

Let me tell you what it's like to live in this tiny town, where there are no services (other than bars, cafes and convenience stores), and 90% of the population is as old or older than we are.

Warning: this post will be heavy on the photos, and in two parts. Part one covers the interior projects, part two will be the exterior work. That might even involve a part three!

We bought this property in the spring 2004. We'd been spending winters, in our motor home, in Arizona for several years, and had come to Bouse at the suggestion of friends who wintered here. We soon fell in love with the little town, and with our neighbors in the RV park. I, however, had never been really excited about spending six months of the year in a "traveling box", preferring something a bit larger, with a solid foundation. When this old single wide mobile home came up for sale, right across the street from where our RV was parked, I jumped at the chance to buy it. It was in pretty bad shape, but I've always love do-it-yourself home projects, and fixing up an old trailer was right up my alley! I mean, we got the place dirt cheap, so we could afford to hire some of the heavier work to be done. You know, things like new flooring. And pruning/removing trees.

Getting the interior livable was the easy part. I loved doing the painting, and didn't even mind that I had to learn to cut, miter and install ceiling moldings and baseboards. It didn't throw me when I had to lay new tiles over the old floor in the small bathroom, and Mr. Granny took it in stride when he had to replace the sink and toilet in that room. The difficulty began when we couldn't hire anyone to install carpeting and kitchen flooring. We contacted places from Parker and Lake Havasu City in AZ, as well as in Blythe, CA. They were all too busy, or wouldn't travel this far, or scheduled an installation and just never did show up. So we carpeted the small bedroom ourselves, and I single handedly removed all the old tiles from the kitchen, floated on a leveler, and installed the kitchen tiles myself. It was about that time we found out...if you want it done in Bouse, you have to do it yourself. We did find a handyman to tackle electrical projects, but everything else was (and still is) done by us.

Mr. Granny converses with the owners, prior to our purchasing the property. I have camera in hand, and take photos of the interior during this, our first time inside. This photo gives you an idea of the condition of the kitchen.

Kitchen eating area, before.

Kitchen, after.

Kitchen eating area, after.

Kitchen floor, before.

I heated the old peel and stick tiles with my hair dryer, and pried them up with a kitchen spatula, to reveal the 1970s linoleum underneath. Notice the "baseboards". These were in every room, but I replaced all but the ones in the main bathroom.

I floated on a leveler, then a primer, then installed the new tiles. The new baseboards are a great improvement, huh? Thank heavens for my electric miter saw and brad nailer!

The living room before. The previous owners (talking to Mr. Granny) were heavy smokers, and every surface was covered with yellow smoke stains.

After two coats of primer, two coats of paint, baseboards, carpet cleaning, new blinds and drapes, new/newer furniture and a Blue Flame heater for taking away the morning chill, the room was much more inviting.

The master bedroom was just nasty! The electrical panel adorns the wall next to the bed.

More primer, more paint, baseboard molding, more new blinds, hand sewn drapes (made from bed sheets), and clean furniture made a big difference. Family pictures disguise the electrical panel.

The small bedroom was even worse then the larger one.

Primer, paint, baseboard molding, window coverings, ceiling cove molding, new carpet and furniture made this room comfy and cozy.

The small 1/2 bathroom was non-functional. The back of the toilet tank was broken out, and all the plumbing under the sink looked as though someone had kicked it out. The 70s green and gold linoleum had to go!

I think by now I had gone through more than six gallons of primer! There was no way I would live with dark walls. I'm just not a dark wall type of gal. Mr. Granny installed the sink and toilet, I did the painting and the flooring, as well as the baseboards and ceiling cove molding. We replaced the regular door with a folding door, which gave me much more room for furniture in the bedroom.

The main bath was probably in the best condition of any of the rooms, so I left it for last.

Replacing the tub and surround were out of the question, so I stripped off the wallpaper border, gave the walls a coat of paint, and had Mr. Granny replace the toilet innards and install a new faucet on the sink. Other than that, only a few accessories and a couple of throw rugs were added (the burgundy rug doesn't show in this photo).

The winter after we bought this place, Mr. Granny had a heart attack. That meant I was the chief cook and bottle washer, as well as the painter/carpenter on all of these projects. I loved every minute of it.....until the electric nailing gun quit on me. It didn't take me long to replace it!

Next: The outside.

January 22, 2011 - And the Prizes Go To

I'm sorry it took so long to get the prizes out for the 100,000 views contest. I finally got all the seeds ordered, and if I'd actually thought to tell Mike from Ohio Heirloom Seeds where to send them, they might have arrived sooner! One (me being the One) really should specify whether they should be sent to the return address on the envelope, or to the address on the check. It's not Mike's fault he sent them to Washington, while I'm here in Arizona. All's well that ends well though, and if you order seeds from Mike, and let him know where to send them, he'll actually have them in the mail within 24 hours of receiving your order. I highly recommend his little company for excellent seeds and excellent customer service. Even if you don't place an order, drop him a line and tell him hello, and that Annie's Granny sent you.

Back to the contest, here were the questions:

1. Who is Annie?
2. How old is Granny?
3. What is Granny's real first name?
4. Where was Granny born?
5. Who is Alicyn, and when was she born?
6. What was the title of my very first post on Annie's Kitchen Garden?
7. How many pints of salsa did Granny can in 2010?
8. What usually happens on Mondays at Annie's Kitchen Garden?
9. Why does Granny have a "kennel garden"?
10. What is the name of Annie's brother?

There were two first place winners, Wendy and Rachel. Each of them got to chose six packets of seeds as their prize. What? You expected a KitchenAid Mixer or something? I ain't no Pioneer Woman, ya know ;-)

Wendy's entry was the first to arrive, and I was flabbergasted when I read it. That girl knows me better than I know myself!
Rachel also answered all of them correctly.

Runners up were Robin, with eight correct and Daphne with seven correct. They each got to chose four packets of seeds.

Congratulations, girls. Your seeds are on their way.

January 20, 2011 No Rest For The Wicked-Old-People

I am finished with my dentist trips to Mexico. Finally. I had to make one last trip yesterday, but was only there for about 30 minutes. The dental lab was so busy on Monday they couldn't get my work done. No matter that we have to drive about 120 miles to get there.....I was getting real sick of having to get up at five a.m. for the trip. Oh, I had the alarm set for 6:30, but I'm always so afraid I won't hear it, or the electricity will go off and the alarm won't ring, so I am usually awake every hour on the hour from 1:00 a.m. on. By five, I finally just give up and get up.

Now it's time to get the winter place ready to leave empty for the summer. The first thing that needed to be done was to butcher prune the palo verde trees out back. They are very old, and suffer from poor pruning in the past. Whoever cut them before left long stubs at every cut, and Mr. Granny does the same thing.....even though I stand below, screaming "Cut at the collar! Cut where the branches join!" He doesn't listen to me, so I will go cut the stubs back the next time around, at least the ones I can reach.

The big branches that hang over the trailer were the tough ones. We had to put boards over the propane tank and the lettuce bed to protect them from falling limbs. It was necessary to remove everything that hung over the roof, so wind blowing the branches back and forth wouldn't cause damage to the structure. Mr. Granny has had a terrible fear of heights since he had his stroke, and I just don't have enough strength in my arms to hold the chainsaw overhead, so he finally got brave and went up the ladder, while I held onto his legs from below. He only dropped one branch on my head, but I got him back later, when I sawed a big one off that was closer to the ground. He didn't even realize it had taken his glasses right off as it fell! He didn't notice they were gone until we were on our way back from the first trip to the dump. We just knew they had fallen off into that huge container, and would be impossible to find. Luckily, we found them under the branches we were loading for our second trip.

We do have some more pruning to do on the trees, but the landfill will only take brush on Thursdays, and we already hauled three loads up there today. And we are tired. Besides cutting off all those big branches, everything had to be cut into lengths no longer then 5'. It was my job to cut them to length after Mr. Granny cut them off the tree. Thank heaven for electric chain saws. I only lost the chain twice today.

In between pruning branches and trips to the dump, I stripped the beds, washed the bedding and hung it out to dry, and baked a loaf of bread. We didn't get a chance to stop for lunch until around three this afternoon, so that freshly baked bread tasted extra good.

That's enough for one day!

January 17, 2011 - Harvest Monday

Shhhh, don't tell anyone it's actually Sunday evening, not Monday. I did have another small harvest this week, and I won't be here to blog about it tomorrow. Yes, one more trip to Mexico to the dentist! I was so happy with what she's done so far, I decided to have a little work done on my lower teeth.

Just look at those nice straight upper teeth! Isn't it wonderful what they can do with crowns, veneers and bridges these days? I've always had a couple of "fangs", teeth that didn't have enough room and grew sideways. I wish now that I'd had them fixed years ago. Hopefully I'll have nice straight bottom teeth after tomorrow.

Now, on to the harvest!

I thinned the spinach, as it wasn't growing well at all. The thinnings were big enough to add to a salad. I also pulled the last of the radishes. I won't be planting any more in this garden, as we have decided to head back to Washington just as soon as I finish with the dental work. That means I might start packing as soon as Tuesday!

Since I had the thinning bug, I decided the lettuce patch needed a bit of work, too. I removed at least half of the plants, so maybe the others can grow to a more useful size real soon. The baby greens filled my largest salad bowl to nearly overflowing.

Even after two big bowls were removed for dinner, there was
plenty for at least two more meals.

Other garden goodies included pesto on the pasta, and tomato sauce on the chicken, both made from vegetables/herbs grown and preserved in 2010.

Other preserved 2010 garden foods served this week included peach jam, frozen bell peppers and tomato juice.

To see what others have harvested this week, visit Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday.